I know you experienced Laos tavellers on this forum must get sick of us newbies asking these pain in the ass questions so I'll be brief
My girlfriend and I will be making our way to Laos in January for the first time. We are super excited and want to do a motorbike trip when we are here. Something with stunning views and it can be up to 4 days long. She has little to no motorbiking experience so it would have to be an easy-ish ride. Can you recommend a good ride for us to do? Is the Bolaven plateau too difficult for a beginner rider?
Thanks in advance.
A pesky canuck
#1 jgreen has been a member since 5/9/2011. Posts: 3
For every question you ask, there will be dozens who benefit from it, so don't worry about that. I've been around this forum for awhile, but as I am also planning my first trip to Laos with a similar plan, I will very be interested to hear what others say.
My plans are to hit the Plateau for 4-7 days. I have done a fair bit of research and from what I understand it's going to be pretty achievable for a beginner - as long as you don't attempt the lower Attapeu - Paksong Road, and as long as you avoid the rainy season (which you are).
Like you, though, I'm always interested to hear the comments from those who have done it.
Also, I have had minimal motorbiking experience (2-3 days on my last trip 2 years ago). Two things that I have done to help address that:
- I did a bike handling skills course for a couple of hours which I thought was worthwhile. Picked up a few good basic tips.
- I also got some practice by hiring a scooter locally and putting some miles in. I figure if I'm going to fall off, I would rather do it near home! If nothing else, it's just confidence building.
The problem with coming here (SEA) and renting a bike is, for the most part, the bikes available are small; in the 100cc range. These really small bikes usually have no clutch (hence poorer control of the drive train), narrow guage tires (hence less stability) and in general are less safe to ride (counter-intuitively, as most people think larger, more complex bikes are more dangerous). They also have really cheap saddles that are not very comfortable over the long haul. Nevertheless, this type of bike is often the first type that a newbie coming to SEA (with lax controls concerning licensing) will ride.
I can't speak to the Bolavens. Recommend you send a note to Casey, who's done that area. But if you are going to do this, then make sure you wear a helmut and be careful. Assume every person you encounter on the road is a total moron about to do something erratic, and you won't be disappointed. Drive extremely cautiously.
That's not to put a damper on your plans. I ride in Thailand a lot and love it. Just remember where you are, that's all. Exercise caution.
#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
The Bolevans Plateau area sounds like the right choice for a multi-day ride, particularly for a first trip to Laos. As new riders, you'd also be wise to follow the excellent advise from MADMAC about wearing your helmet, using caution, and driving defensively. I'd add to that my suggestion to drive s-l-o-w-l-y to create an added safety margin and so you can also enjoy the ride.
It might also be worthwhile to take the extra time to shop around and be a bit picky about which scooter you rent. Find one that is in decent shape and check the brakes, the steering, the tires, etc. and make sure you also get a helmet that fits and is comfortable.
In my experience, it is also worth the extra money for a newer scooter, and a newbie rider will likely be better off with the fully automatic models rather than one that requires you to shift gears with a foot pedal.
Seriously. Drive slowly. MADMAC is exactly right when he says to expect others on the road to do erratic and random things. A slow speed also gives you more time to react, more time to see road hazards, and less chance of a skid should you hit sand or oil or be cut off yet again.